Saturday, February 14, 2009

Your Responses

Readings for Class #4: Crystal pages 1-15; 408-415


1. On page 1 of Crystal the author states "The world currently displays many signs of linguistic intolerance and tension." Give an example of the above.

From Mary: Working in health care, I have had many colleagues whose first language was something other than English.  For example, at my last job I worked with several people from Ethiopia.  There was a periodically resurrected policy that only English should be spoken at work.  In conversation I would see/hear my coworkers from Ethiopia talking to each other in their native tongue.  For them it was a way to keep connected to their culture and their language.  Their children were growing up speaking and knowing in two languages.  I never felt excluded or threatened in any way; I knew that if a situation arose that needed my help, such as when a patient was sent out to the ER, a common language, English, would get the job done.  (And the potlucks were great.)

From Mi Ryoung :One example I can think of is ‘linguistic stratification and isolation between languages.’ Once English becomes a worldwide language, it rapidly governs other languages in the world in terms of its use and popularity. In my country, English is a foreign language. I see people go crazy about English. Our government tries to conduct an immersion approach (i.e., teach all subjects in English at school) regardless of peoples’ attitude toward it. Parents try to send their young children abroad. As a result, families are apart for long years. The mother tongue loses their power and is slowly governed by English. I am afraid that English may govern our body and mind in the end. The power of the language results in severe stratification between the rich and the poor. Mastering English is very expensive. Another example is that there is a strong misconception about learning languages in the USA. Parents prevent their children from learning their native language. They misunderstand that their children may have a trouble in acquiring English because of their native language. The funny thing happens in the world because of the power of English.

From Lisa: Crystal gives examples of linguistic intolerance and tension including the language riots of India or Belgium, or the road signs of Wales or northern Spain. Digging more deeply, the linguistic intolerance and tension are also painfully apparent in our educational system’s lack of motivation in its reluctance to move away from the traditional and unrelenting linguistic practices that have been drilled into our students forever, it seems. This, of course leads to discussion of correct or incorrect usage of language in society. Do we preserve the purity of language without also delving into its persuasive and mystical capabilities? As the debate continues, Crystal leads us into the “relationship between language and thought.”

From Kenneth: The world currently displays many signs of linguistic intolerance and tension for example such as in the language riots of India or Belgium, and in the disfigured road signs of Wales or northern Spain; but they are present in more subtle ways, in the unmotivated preservation of traditional purist linguistic practices in many schools, and in the regular flow of complaints on the world’s radio channels and in the press about other people’s usage.

From Jui-tseng:The linguists have different theories. Some tried to find rules of the language usage. As an ESL speaker, I made grammar mistakes all the time. People may think I am not well educated. For example, in Chinese we say “I tomorrow morning and my sister together go to school.” This sentence would be consider wrong here in America. Vise versa, Some foreigners speak Chinese in the English “grammar”. It doesn’t sound right to us.

2. On page 7 the author states "A belief that some languages are intrinsically superior to others is widespread, but it has no basis in linguistic fact."

Regarding this point,
A. what is the derivation of the imperative to 'speak the King's English'?

From Mary:The spread of British colonialism and British English dominating the airwaves.  It was the language of people in positions of power and educated at prestigious schools.  It was more "the language of power and influence, than any linguistic quality.

From Mi Ryoung :The purpose of speaking “King’s English” (i.e., English speech or usage that is considered standard or accepted; Received Standard English) is a way to settle down English. English has radically been changed in terms of its vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation in the early history. In order to prevent the language from changing due to many factors, the imperative to speak “king’s English” is encouraged and justified. This effort makes English settle down in a way. For the imperative to speak King’s English, however, people may wonder which dialect is the standard. Interestingly, if you go to the east, New Yorkers says that “their dialect is the standard and people in the USA should use it.” If you go to the middle, you will be heard that their English is the standard. The similar phenomenon can be observed in the west and even in the south. It still keeps controversial. Regardless of the effort to speak “King’s English”, language does change. No one blocks it. Considering individual and dialectal variation in speech, language change is very natural.

From Lisa: The importance of speaking the “King’s English” obviously reflects our British ancestors settling in the new world and the “proper usage” of speaking as well as their prestige and political influence, But, as with all languages, the United States has many dialects. British and American English is no exception. Speaking “cockney” British dialect, for example, would not carry the prestige of speaking the King’s English. In America, alone, we can travel from one part of the country to another and encounter distinguishable differences in dialect along the way.

From Kenneth:It is often that the language evaluation is tied to questions of national identity. This is an example of what Johann Herder said; ‘Has a nation anything more precious than the language of its fathers?’

From Jui-tseng: I think England was a powerful country and it had a highly developed culture. It also had good economics. So it was considered a royal language. Some of my European friends prefer British English. In Taiwan, Taiwanese was suppressed for a long time by the old government.

B. why are some words consider crude or profane while others correct or respectable? For example, compare the use of "shit" v. the use of "feces".

From Mary:Some words are taboo; it is usually words connected to sex, supernatural, excrement and death.  Euphemisms, or using a roundabout expression are ways of avoiding the offending word.   There are many words for excrement; feces is a clinical expression, as is stool, among many others, and I would fall back on those, figuratively, only when the situation required such language.  My preference is "shit" or "poop."  Shit has become an expression that includes more than merely excrement, as in "Oh, shit!" - something is wrong.  I know enough about appropriate use of language (usually) to make the better choice.  One story I tell comes from India and describes a dog walking among the people listening to a lengthy recitation of the Ramayana.  A man who wasn't particularly interested in the story lay sleeping on the ground when the dog came by and pissed into the open mouth of the sleeping man.  For some audiences, I change "pissed" to "kicked some dirt"  when I feel the word "pissed" would offend the audience so that that would be the only thing they remembered about the story.  Some words ignite emotions.  I remember listening to A Prairie Home Companion when Garrison Keillor had a very young child and many of his jokes were often scatological.  Barack Obama's use of the expression,"I screwed up," has generated plenty of talk on CNN (the sensation station).  I expect that some people have been offended.  Personally, I find it an acceptable way of saying he should have checked into that appointment more thoroughly.  I'm sure this is the way many in Washington speak behind the doors but less so publicly.

From Mi Ryoung :It depends on several aspects. First, where does the word come from (i.e., its root)? If the words come from either Latin or France, they are considered elegant and respectable. Second, who do the words use (i.e., social class)? It refers to the classes between low and high. For instance, no one from high class will use the word “shit”. Third, when or what kind of situation is the word used (i.e., context)? Depending on these three, the status of the word can be determined. The word “shit” comes from Old English, is used by low class, and is frequently used as slang when fighting or cursing. In contrast, the word “feces” comes from Latin, is used by normal class, and is frequently used in normal conversation.

From Lisa: The question of distinguishing respectable words from profane words is a dichotomy into itself! Many of us, through our Christian upbringings have been taught that it is sinful to take the Lord’s name in vain. The blasphemous words are also referred to as swear words. On the other hand, with words like “shit” and “feces”, there is no particular association with Christianity or the Bible. Could it all be in the intention of the telling of the word itself? What about proper words that have evolved into swear words? This can be tied in to the previous discussion of correct speaking or the usage of language being linked to prestige or social class. I believe that we, ourselves decide what is and is not profanity!

From Kenneth:Some words such as “shit” v the use of “feces” are much different in how you use the words in sentences. For example when we hit our finger with a hammer or drop something valuable we most likely will say “shit” or other profound language that we have been taught or learned is a bad word and we don’t want our children to hear them but when we talk about the word “feces” it is used in a way to describe what is left after a animal such as our pets, dogs or cats and horses leave behind when they poop. It describes a “thing” like the baby got feces on their face, etc. Even when I was born back in the early 1950’s calling me “dumb” was okay it was accepted in those days to describe that I was deaf but if that word is used today wow better watch out… haha.

From Jui-tseng: It depends on how people use the word in their daily life and slayings. Then we are associated to the meaning of the word. My dictionary says the first meaning of shit is a swear word and the second meaning is solid waste matter from the bowels.(I thought it’s bowl and I kept thinking what bowl, which bowl?) There are several idioms which do not sound nice at all: beat the shit out of Sb, in deep shit, not give a shit and when the shit hits the fan. Feces mean (formal) solid waste material that leaves the body through the ANUS. There is no any idioms about it.
According to the books some words are taboos in the culture which are not said at all.
I discussed with a classmate about women’s body image in another class. The interesting thing is he said all other names-headlights, pumpkin…..(which I have never learned before) for breasts but he would not say the word-breasts.

3. On page 7 the author states the impossibility of rating the linguistic or aesthetic excellence of language. However, if it is possible for rating the quality of the storytelling event, what measures can you suggest? (consider Locke's remarks re: "verbal plumage")

From Mary:Locke describes "verbal plumage" as "the mastery of a broad range of words and phrases, many of them outside the more limited repertoire of their audience."  Applying this concept to a storytelling festival would have the tellers elevating the language and tone above that of everyday speech, but still accessible to the audience.  The storytellers would be those who spoke with the knowledge of the deliciousness of language.  A use of metaphors and clear images.  Rhythmic speech, attention to the sounds of language.  A delivery style that offers variety of dynamics and pacing; language consciously chosen to  tell the story and that match the physicality of the storyteller.  This leaves the stage open to a variety of storytelling styles.   I think rating the quality of a festival is very subjective but here's my attempt:  A demographic cross-section of tellers who, as a whole, offer those qualities listed above.

From Mi Ryoung :Rating the quality of the storytelling event can vary from person to person. As a non-native speaker of English, I want to describe my own measures. First, one should have a clear and delicate pronunciation. Of course, I like to hear various dialects but the problem is that I don’t get it. Once I don’t get it, I cannot obtain anything from the event. Second, concerning the content of a story, it would be good to include some dramatic plot, humor and wit. Listening a story for more than 10 minutes often makes me bored. Third, some interaction (i.e., grooming behavior) between a teller and listener is necessary. Fourth, appropriate body gestures during the story are highly recommended.

From Lisa: As Locke tells us, even in oral cultures rank or popularity is also inadvertently involved in the storyteller’s “magic” with his or her audience. The “verbal plumage”, in my interpretation, shows the proficiency and mastery of the storyteller’s use of language as well as gesture through the spoken word. Would this create a state of status among tellers? Yes, I think theoretically it would indeed….sparring with words, so to speak!

From Kenneth:In the quality of the storytelling event know the word origin that you feel are important to storytelling-etymologies. When telling your story what does the words really mean or tell. Language derivation of change of core meaning-history of words.

From Jui-tseng: Although we cannot rate language, Locke pointed out that in oral cultures rank is earned by dazzling the assembled listeners and by attracting more. Good talkers do this with verbal plumage-mastery of a broad range of words and phrases. Nowadays leaders, businessmen and politicians are good talkers. In storytelling, different storytellers have different styles. Some are more oral and some are more literal. A good storyteller should have good stories, good intonation and skills. Elizabeth said “Sing to their heart, not their ears.” To me, it’s new. The most important thing is you have to enjoy the stories. There is a connection between the storyteller and the audience. I enjoy the stories when I can understand and feel the storyteller is in the story.

4. In Plato's "Cratylus" the title character, Cratylus, states: "I believe, Socrates, the true account of the matter to be, that a power more than human gave things their first names, and that the names which are thus given are necessarily their true names."

A. How does this compare with Eve's actions in the short story "She Unnames Them"?

From Mary:Cratylus believed there was an intrinsic relationship between words and things; there is a correct name for everything.  LeGuin writes that names created a barrier between animals and herself.  Without names, she experienced the animals as smells, tactile sensations, primal feelings.  Taking away the name changed the nature of the relationship.

From Mi Ryoung :Suppose if there are no names in the world, it will be a chaos. I cannot imagine what happens in the world. This can be read by the article “She unnames them”. Once a thing is given a name, it is clear what it is. A power can be a god or an Adam. In the bible, Adam gave everything its name. Both cratylus’ saying and Eve’s actions implied that there must be “names.” Along with names, things can carry their identities and personalities.

From Lisa: In “She Unnames Them”, Guin alludes to unnaming all creatures as a way of becoming closer to them and who they really are. Names are compared to an invisible barrier which can impede our feelings and reactions to others. Does this affect the way we treat and feel about others? From a stereotypical perspective, I would agree. In other words, by not knowing someone’s name, are we more open to who they are and not what they are labeled as being? Intriguing.

From Kenneth:Cratylus was stating that a higher being other than humans gave names to things and object and therefore what is given in a name is true to what it is such as, a tree is a tree, a rock is a rock so that is their true name as given. Which I see Eve is taking the names and changing them to fit into that time period.

From Jui-tseng: According to Wikipedia, Cratylus thought the creator of words uses letters containing certain sounds to express the essence of a word’s subject. There is a letter that is best for soft things, one for liquid things, and so on. He comments, "This would be the most perfect state of language. In Chinese some words (characters) are pronounced according to the objects’ sound. In “She Unnames them” names are not created according to the origins of the objects. They can be changed if everyone agrees with it. We had a famous dialogue between two ancient philosophers discussing “when a white horse is not a horse.” Check out if you are interested. It’s quite interesting.

B. How does the imposition of a name affect our ability to know a thing?

From Mary:Knowing the name of an animal does not include knowing the animal, and as LeGuin stated, it might be a barrier to knowing.  However, naming is important for communication as in the piece, Master of Masters, where without common understanding of names, the master's house would have gone up in flames.

From Mi Ryoung :Without naming things, it will be very hard to remember a single thing for a long term. It is always vague and not clear. For instance, in your class, I could not translate the term “grooming” or “stroke” into my language. This made it hard to follow your lecture after all. With naming, it is possible to retain knowledge about things for a long term.

From Lisa: Before becoming known as linguistics, Saussure’s idea of a language system included “langue” as the broader conception of language which was more than a system of names and “parole” as a simply graphic or vocal manifestation of a sound or utterance. Saussure is also regarded by many as being the creator of modern structuralism, which includes the use of “ langue” and “parole”.

From Kenneth:All things that has a named is also what we see as a symbol. Every time we see a picture without words we know what it is because it is the symbol of what we had learned to associate it with a name, like we talked about in class such as the word French fries is the American term while in Ireland when they see the same picture of French fries they see chips.

From Jui-tseng: Without names, it’s very difficult to know what we are talking about. We can have better understanding when there are names for things although there may be some stereotypes in certain names.

5. What was the study of language called before it was named 'linguistics'?

From All: philology

6. Which of Sauserre's concepts, Diachrony or Synchrony, is most relevant to our search for a grammar for storytelling? Why?

From Mary:I think they are both relevant; Diachrony because language is a continually changing medium and storytelling may reach back to older language use in some cases, and Synchrony as storytelling is immersed in the whole of language.

From Mi Ryoung :Before I answer question #6, I want to clarify myself about the definition of the grammar of storytelling. The grammar is defined as a system of linguistic elements and rules. Linguistic elements refer to syntax, phonetics, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics. Rules of language are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Based upon this definition, I would like to answer your question.

Both approaches are necessary to study the grammar of storytelling. It totally depends on what you want to investigate and what kinds of interests you have. After you make up you mind, you can decides which way, either synchronic or diachronic, you follow. For instance, if you want to see how the communities of storytelling have been organized, you should have both approaches. You should see when the community was built from a diachronic (i.e., historical) view and how it is going from a synchronic view. If you want to investigate the current styles of storytellers, you should go with a synchronic approach.

The two concepts are not separate one from another if you look at the grammar of storytelling. Depending on a specific project, either one should be seriously considered to follow.

From Lisa: I am inclined towards Synchrony being more relevant in our search for a grammar of storytelling as it looks more closely at the changes in language over a period of time.

From Kenneth: In Sauserre’s concepts , Diachrony or Synchrony. I believe that synchrony is the most relevant to our research for a grammar for storytelling because when we tell our stories we tell them as a living whole, existing as a ‘state’ at a particular moment in time. It is the historical path the language has traveled.

From Jui-tseng: Diachrony sees language as a continually changing medium and Synchrony sees it as a living whole, existing as a ‘state’ at a particular moment in time. Storytelling should be both. It not only has to know the changes of the language but also the existing language in order to perform the storytelling well.

7. Which of the grammars that have emerged since the 1960's (Crystal page 413) has relevance to our search for a grammar for storytelling? Why?

From Mary:Not real sure here, but I think maybe Functional grammar and Realistic grammar.  Functional grammar because this is a more practical view of language as social interaction.  Social interaction may be part of storytelling.  Realistic grammar because the patterns of language should be real to the context of the story.

From Mi Ryoung :I do not get the point of your question. The answer can vary depending on which part of the grammar of storytelling is focused on investigating. If someone wants to focus on the meaning of storytelling (i.e., semantics), he may go with Montague Grammar.

To my knowledge, the grammars on page 413 are out of date. No linguist is interested in using any of them anymore because of the rise of new grammar or theories such as minimalist theory in syntax, optimality framework in phonetics and phonology, situational semantics and so on.

If I should choose one to answer your question, I go with Functional Grammar. Functional Grammar (FG) is a general theory of the organization of natural language. This theory adopts a pragmatic view of language as social interaction. Storytelling involves people, stories, and interaction. It is, however, depended on what linguistic elements you want to analyze. If you want to focus on the meaning of storytelling between tellers and the audience, you probably should dig out a Semantics theory such as Montague Grammar and Situational Semantics. If you want to examine the structure of storytelling, you should study Case grammar, Relational Grammar, X-Bar theory, and Generalized Phrase structure Grammar. In order to analyze the storytelling event, you should first decide what specific linguistic elements you are interested in and then you should find an appropriate linguistic theory or grammar to analyze the facts.

From Lisa: In the 1960’s, Chomsky’s distinction between someone’s knowledge of language and the actual use of the language in real scenarios which was somewhat parallel to Saussure’s theory of “langue” and “parole”. Thus began the emergence of linguistics in understanding the human mind. Our knowledge often comes from our everyday lives and experiences. What a better venue for the success of storytelling?

From Kenneth:In all the grammars that has emerged since the 1960’s the most or best one that I see that is most relevance to our search for a grammar for storytelling is the realistic grammar. I chose this one because weather our stories are true or not, every story we tell or hear from others the story or stories should be ‘psychologically real’ meaning that the story has a pattern that is related to the psychological factors that underline linguistic behavior, such as comprehension and memory.

From Jui-tseng: I think it’s functional grammar because it discusses about social interaction.

8. Which of the Interdisciplinary Fields of Linguistics (Crystal page 418) has relevance to our search for a grammar for storytelling? Why?

From Mary:Educational linguistics for the work of storytelling and literacy.  Ethnolinguistics as it applies to story work and story listening with other cultures.  Geographical linguistics for understanding regional dialects.  Neurolinguistics for the way that language impacts the nervous system.  Psycholinguistics as it is important for the telling as well as the listening.

From Mi Ryoung :It is very hard to tell because storytelling incorporates different parts of many disciplines. It needs to create another interdisciplinary field called “story linguistics”. The related areas can be more than one. Since both Anthrophological linguistics and Ethnolinguistics are closely related to human race and society, it would be appropriate because stories are born by human race. There is an area of discourse analysis under pragmatics. It would be the appropriate one to study storytelling since it concerns conversational styles and implications between speakers. Storytelling can be sort of a conversation between tellers and listeners. Sociolinguistics might be the one since the storytelling event is closely related to a culture and society. Under Sociolinguistics, such factors as gender, age, class, and race are taken into account. As an example, we can study about what gender is more interested in listening or telling stories. Taking the factor “Race” into consideration, we may study why storytelling events are very different between races. It is popular among Americans but not among Asians.

From Lisa: As an educator, I am desiring to say that EVERY interdisciplinary field would be beneficial in our search for the grammar of storytelling. As a storytelling follower, I would lean towards the interdisciplinary fields of anthropological linguistics, ethnolinguistics, geographical linguistics, philosophical linguistics, and sociolinguistics.

From Kenneth:In the list of interdisciplinary fields I feel that the ‘anthropological linguistics’ is relevant to our search for storytelling because it is the study of language variation and the use in relation to cultural patterns and beliefs of the human race, as investigated using the theories and methods of anthropology. Just in our class alone you will see a variety of culture some from Asian country, a disable student, and different in ages. We even have students from many parts of the United States from the Valley to the Mountains regions. We have a great environment in our class of rich stories to be told of how we live in our culture of times from past to present full of theories of how we live in the human race and in our own cultural.

From Jui-tseng: It looks like the sociolinguists and because storytellers need to know the interaction between language and the structure and functioning of society.

9. What concepts that we have touched upon to date should be included in our grammar for storytelling?

From Mary:The arc of a story - a beginning, middle and and end.  Semantics and syntax.  Etymology.  Paralinguistic aspects of telling a story.  Social grooming of storyteller and audience.  Sounds of words and rhythms of delivery.

From Mi Ryoung :Concepts that I can think of are “grooming behavior”, “Recognition hunger”, “stroke economy” and “synchronic behavior”. The grammar of storytelling is closely related with these concepts you explained in class. Grooming behavior refers to not only physically touching but also verbal touching. Storytellers need to touch listeners’ mind throughout their stories. There is also a stroking behavior. For instance, the audience can be impressed by a teller’s stroke. There needs to be an exchange between a teller and listener. Recognition hunger refers to the behavior that one person carries a curiosity and warmth to another. Synchronic behavior tells us that there is a cooperative behavior, calling responses, and shared experience in the storytelling event. The concepts should be included in the grammar of storytelling.

From Lisa: This is not a question that I believe I currently have an answer to. Language and words are universal to not only who we are, what we are called, and what knowledge and communication we can impart but are also conducive to other elements or intonations including pitch, voice, surprise, and irony….to name a few. In other words, everything is relevant to our quest for the grammar of storytelling. It all means something.

From Kenneth:One concept that should be included in our grammar for storytelling is the functional of how we use the role of language that plays on how we communicate or express our ideas, attitudes in a particular social situations such as religious, beliefs, or ideas. Even how we tell the stories in historical times or present.

From Jui-tseng: It looks like the sociolinguists and because storytellers need to know the interaction between language and the structure and functioning of society.

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